Outages impact local phones, emergency services

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Cities up and down Highway 395, from Victorville up to Bishop were affected by major landline and mobile service outages this weekend. The outage left the valley without proper access to 9-1-1 or the Ridgecrest Police Department for nearly 24 hours from Saturday to Sunday.

The outages affected Frontier Communications, the primary provider for landlines, whose services also enable AT&T and T-Mobile wireless services.

“Obviously that creates a problem for us when we lose 9-1-1,” said Police Chief Jed McLaughlin. He said that 9-1-1 calls from landlines were rerouted to Bakersfield, while mobile phones could be rerouted to Barstow or Bishop.

Fortunately, the PD was able to use it’s backup internet connection along with a Google Voice number to forward calls to their mobile phones that were on Verizon Wireless, one of the unaffected local networks.

“We had it set up so those placed could forward the calls back to us,” said McLaughlin. “But if we had lost Verizon as well, it would have been true chaos. What helped us in this situation was having our backup internet connection up.”

McLaughlin said the department could be reached via Google Voice at 760-428-2004, but the number would only be active during emergencies like the one last weekend.

Liberty Ambulance Operations Manager Mike Metcalf said that Liberty Ambulance also has a temporary backup number for such emergencies – 661-327-4111.

This was not the first time Ridgecrest has experienced such an outage.

“I remember a few years ago someone cut a major trunk system in the valley and there was no phone system whatsoever,” said Metcalf. “This time, Verizon wireless did work. But if you called a local number it just didn’t go through. People needed to call direct number for the Sheriff or backup numbers for police and ambulance.”

The city’s Information Technology Supervisor Matt Freese added that for situations where phone lines go down but internet connectivity is an option, customs can contact their providers or go online to learn how to enable Wi-Fi Calling on their mobile devices.

“It’s probably a good thing to get out there that people can still make phone calls if they have access to their internet,” said Freese.

Story First Published: 2019-03-31